“Land” (2020 production, 2021 release). Cast: Robin Wright, Demián Bechir, Sarah Dawn Pledge, Kim Dickens, Warren Christie, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Brad Leland. Director: Robin Wright. Screenplay: Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam. Web site. Trailer.
When beset by an unspeakable calamity, it can be nearly impossible to regroup. Those who care about us will undoubtedly try to lift our spirits and help us get our bearings back, but that may not be enough, especially if our heart and spirit are not in it. So what are we to do under such circumstances? That may not be an easy question to answer, but we always have choices to restore hope, a notion examined in the heart-tugging drama, “Land.”
For Edee (Robin Wright), life undoubtedly seems pretty unfair. Having experienced a heartbreaking personal tragedy, the Chicago native is unsure what to do. Edee’s sister, Emma (Kim Dickens), recommends that she see a counselor, but that seems to provide little comfort. In fact, Edee is so distraught by her circumstances that she has trouble coping with everyday life, frequently lapsing into bouts of uncontrollable hysteria. She also unreservedly lets others know that she doesn’t want to be around them, feeling as though she doesn’t belong in their company – or anywhere for that matter. She’s so utterly overcome with grief and lacking in hope for the future that it sometimes seems like she’s not even sure if she wants things to work out.
With no plausible plan in place, Edee decides to get away from it all – and everybody. She relocates to the mountainous wilderness of Wyoming to be by herself, moving into a remote cabin with no amenities (even running water) and no source of transportation to make a getaway if needed. She professes that she’ll be fine, despite being inexperienced when it comes to the challenges of surviving in the woods. But, then, that doesn’t seem to bother her, either, because she has no apparent reservations about failing at this venture. Given her frame of mind, she seems to believe that she couldn’t feel any worse than she already does, her outlook resting on the notion that, if she dies, she dies.
As Edee’s adventure plays out, she repeatedly fails at virtually everything she undertakes. She’s on the brink of a breakdown, emotionally proclaiming that her “plan” isn’t working. From losing her water bottles to an unforgiving swift current when collecting supplies from a nearby stream to being trapped in an outhouse with an adult black bear aggressively pawing at the rickety structure, she quickly finds herself fighting a losing battle. She’s ready to give up, a decision that would appear to be reliably unfolding when she loses consciousness in her cabin during a severe winter storm. Indeed, it could all be over quite soon.
Much to Edee’s surprise, however, she finds herself revived and in the care of a pair of passing Samaritans, Miguel (Demián Bechir), an accomplished tracker and hunter, and Miguel’s friend, Alawa (Sarah Dawn Pledge), a nurse. Alawa tends to Edee’s health matters, while Miguel handles chores around the cabin and secures much-needed supplies. Edee’s condition is serious, and Alawa recommends transferring her to a hospital, though the recluse will have none of that, unsure that she wants to recover. As Edee starts to feel better, though, she slowly starts to back off from her depressive stance.
As Edee’s condition stabilizes, Alawa steps aside, leaving Miguel to care for the patient’s needs on his own, frequently with his beloved pooch at his side. The more time Edee and Miguel spend together, the more she warms to his presence, albeit slowly. She’s still in a fragile state, and Miguel is astute enough to recognize this, making sure not to pressure her too much. She even makes her request for privacy about her past plainly known, though she has no reservations about accepting whatever help Miguel is willing to provide. That’s especially true when he instructs her in the ways of surviving in the wilderness, such as how to become a more effective tracker and hunter.
With her physical strength restored, Edee grows more confident at living off the land. Her emotional state improves, too, even growing comfortable at spending more time in Miguel’s company, something she never would have considered when she first moved to Wyoming. Their relationship is far from romantic, though it grows increasingly intimate over time, firmly rooted in a foundation of compassionate friendship. Indeed, Edee would appear to be coming back to life.
All is well until one day when Miguel pays a visit that’s different from what Edee has grown accustomed to. His characteristic warmth and compassion are still present, but there’s also an atypical distance between them. They chat briefly before Miguel announces that he’s going away for a while but doesn’t know when he’ll be back. His announcement may be a little vague, but it doesn’t come across as especially alarming, particularly when he asks Edee if she wouldn’t mind caring for his canine friend in his absence, a request to which she agrees. Given the profound bond between Miguel and his dog, Edee can’t envision him abandoning his loyal pet or being gone permanently, but she’s left with an odd feeling that she hasn’t experienced before, one that only grows stronger as time passes with no sign of Miguel’s return in sight.
What does this new development mean? Can Edee survive on her own without Miguel’s help? Is there a future for their friendship? And what impact, if any, will his absence have on Edee’s emotional well-being? Those are the questions to be resolved as Edee’s odyssey runs its course.
Starting over is seldom easy, especially when we’re burdened by the weight of profound sadness. Working up the ambition to even consider what to do next may be more than we can bear, let alone actually getting on with our lives. In fact, sometimes we might feel like it’s simply easier to give up than to attempt to move forward. These are circumstances that Edee can no doubt relate to.
Nevertheless, it’s not realistic to stay stuck in limbo either, and that’s where Edee currently resides (and likely has for some time, with no sign of implementing any kind of meaningful change). On some level she knows she needs to do something different, but what?
This is where the importance of our power of choice comes into play. And that, in turn, is governed by what we believe about the nature of the existence we’re experiencing, as well as what we would like to experience, for that drives what ultimately unfolds in our reality. Such is the essence of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains our thoughts, beliefs and intents are responsible for manifesting the world around us. This is true for better or worse, and it’s something that Edee has become all too familiar with, especially in its negative aspects, regardless of whether or not she’s aware of how they originated.
At this juncture in Edee’s life, even if she doesn’t know how to proceed, she has a distinct choice open to her – does she look for the means to reshape her existence, or does she give up? As the story opens, it’s apparent that she doesn’t know the answer to that question; she’s so numb from her experience that putting any thought into a particular course of action is beyond her current capabilities. She knows she’s not able to be around others, but that’s about all; she has no clear idea where she herself belongs, and she’s unable to choose a new direction. That’s tragic, too, given that our power of choice is such a precious birthright, and she’s intentionally casting it aside. It’s as if she’s willing to let the chips fall where they may, no matter what that may involve.
As Edee soon discovers after relocating, willfully evading making a decision isn’t working for her, but she’s still not prepared to change that, despite the difficulties associated with that “choice.” Clearly she needs guidance, direction, and, above all, help. This is where the assistance provided by her “unexpected” Samaritans comes into play. While Edee may not have been consciously aware of their existence before their arrival, on some level, she nevertheless has managed to draw them into her reality, hoping that their backing will help her make a decision one way or another.
Miguel and Alawa clearly want Edee to pull through; they don’t want her to give up, even if they’re unfamiliar with what she went through. It’s in their nature to offer compassion and nurturing, regardless of what prompts it. Their primary concern is whether Edee will accept it, hoping that they’ll be able to convince her that rebuilding her life is worth the effort. And they apparently make a good case for it, especially when Edee shows signs of responding to them positively.
In essence, Edee gets what she needs most – friendship, empathy and support. Slowly but surely these gifts enable her to begin taking back control over the direction of her life and future. She assumes the reins over her power of choice and begins drawing upon it to chart a new path. It may be a tentative course, and progress may come at a snail’s pace, but at least it’s a sign of something, an indication that she’s coming out of her long dark night of the soul.
The appearance of Alawa and Miguel at a time when their presence is so dearly needed demonstrates that “the Universe provides,” a notion common to many metaphysical disciplines, including conscious creation. As our collaborator in the manifestation process, the Universe (or God, Goddess, All That Is, Source or whatever other term best suits you) works with us to give us what we need when we need it. By making our intentions known and putting forth beliefs aimed at materializing what we require, we can quickly find ourselves equipped with what suits us.
That’s certainly true where Edee and Miguel are concerned. In many ways, Edee is in need of the services of a guardian angel, a savior who will help her turn her life around. But their interaction is more than just a celestial handout; together Edee and Miguel forge a working partnership, a mutually beneficial collaborative effort aimed at fulfilling their needs. As a consequence, Edee starts to get her life back, while Miguel the caregiver lives out his destiny, a practice that conscious creators refer to as value fulfillment, the act of being our best, truest selves for the betterment of ourselves and those around us. There’s so much to be said for exercising our value fulfillment, especially the role it plays in helping to collectively uplift us all and to restore hope where despair has held sway. It’s something we could use more of in these challenging times, and there’s no telling what it might birth when we allow ourselves to be inspired by it. It just might even be powerful enough to move Edee to begin practicing it herself. And, considering where she began, that would be quite a miracle to be sure.
“Land” is indeed a moving and inspiring story, one that personifies hope in the face of extreme adversity. Actress Robin Wright’s feature film directorial debut tells this heart-tugging tale capably, even if somewhat conventionally at times and with character development that could have benefitted from supplemental strengthening. Nevertheless, thanks to Wright’s strong lead performance, stunning cinematography, nicely sustained pacing and a solid finish, this offering certainly shines in the areas where it truly matters most. This may not be earth-shattering filmmaking, but it’s certainly an impressive start to a budding career. The film had a brief theatrical run earlier this year and is now available for streaming online.
When Pandora’s Box was opened and all of the furies were unleashed, it seemed like humanity was doomed, saddled with an array of horrors that couldn’t be reversed or overcome. But those who remember the myth will also recall that the last of the entities to emerge from the artifact was one completely different from the others – the spirit of Hope. This being may have been vastly outnumbered by the others, but this did nothing to diminish the power she possessed, the ability to give mankind encouragement and a positive outlook in the face of all the travails let loose. It may not seem like much to hold onto, but, when it’s all we’ve got, we should grasp it with all our might, for it just may provide us with the answers we need in the face of our troubles – and help to lift us up out of them.
Copyright © 2021, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.